December is so busy that I spend the bulk of it wishing the holidays were over so I can rest. That, and complaining.
If the children have a Christmas party or a service project, I can't say no. Then, there's the activities I bring on myself, because it's the holidays and I feel obligated to create memories for my children and my nephews, the Heathenish and Fatty Lumpkins. A few decades from now, they'll probably remember I was constantly on the edge of a breakdown.
We made gingerbread men from scratch this year. I picked up icing and gum drops so we could decorate them. It was a success, considering no one was injured. However, our cookies look like extras from "The Walking Dead" instead of "The Gingerbread Boy." They're still edible, I just wish Grampy Grumpy would quit moaning "braaaaains" when he eats them.
We handmade our Christmas cards. I let all four children help, and they had varying degrees of success - Fatty Lumpkins stamped six holiday greetings per card at various angles and only right-side up 50 percent of the time. I sent them anyway. The Heathenish surprised me, taking it very seriously. He spent a lot of time and care with his cards, and they turned out very well. I guess that means he'll want to do it again next year.
And there were the parties for all the children's extra-curricular groups. The gift exchanges always are supposed to be $5 or $10 exchanges, but no one spends that. I spent around $150 on gift exchanges this year. (Don't tell the Long Suffering Husband.) Can we agree to stop one-upping each other and scale back to the actual limits? Pretty soon I'm going to spend more on gift exchanges than I do on either one of the kids.
We fit a hockey game in there somewhere, too. Grampy and I took all four of the kids down to Wheeling, where we had seats on the glass. After getting a taste of the "good life" down on the glass, Grampy is reluctant to go back to Section 217, even if we can see the ice better. The Heathenish is getting into it, and I suspect we have a budding hockey fan on our hands, regardless of whether he says baseball is still his favorite sport.
Between work, the kids' activities and holiday festivities, I didn't start shopping until the Saturday before Christmas. The mall the weekend before Christmas is the fourth circle of hell.
Did I mention the holiday concert? The kids both performed this year - the Little Professor on the trombone (or as I call it, "the slide-y trumpet") and the Sassy Saint on the trumpet. This was the first and only year they would perform the middle school concert together, so it was a can't-miss.
I was late. I did remember to bring a dozen (store-bought) cookies as requested. I stood in the doorway. The band worked its way through a handful of Christmas carols. Sass looked straight ahead, stone-faced and serious, as befit a seasoned veteran and example to the younger kids.
During a break in playing, my Professor spotted me lurking by the doorway. He grinned and waved. I waved back. He bobbed his head and tapped his toes along with the beat. I took a picture and texted it to my sister-in-law, Glinda the Good. She loved it. I caught myself smiling, humming along and relaxing for the first time in weeks.
When the concert ended, I waited, feeling unrushed for the first time in a long time.
They lugged their instruments behind them on the way to the cookie table. They hugged me and asked how I liked the concert.
"It was fantastic," I said. "I'm so glad I got to see it. It was just what I needed to get in the holiday spirit."
And that's the truth. Happy holidays, everyone!
(Wallace-Minger, a resident of Weirton, is community editor of The Weirton Daily Times)